Requirements must be met before you can vote

With the general election coming up in November, many first-time voters will be heading to the polls. What does the law require in terms of voting in national and local elections? To vote, you must be 18 or older, a U.S. citizen and a resident of Illinois for 30 days before the election.

If you will turn 18 fewer than 30 days prior to the election, you can vote, but you must register at least 30 days before election day. If you have moved from one part of the state to another, you can vote at the polling place in your new precinct by presenting an affidavit obtained through the State Board of Elections.

If you are in jail or on parole for a felony conviction, or claim the right to vote elsewhere, you are not allowed to vote.

When you register to vote, you will be asked to complete a form that lists your full legal name, home address, date of birth, telephone number, I.D. number (the last four or six digits of your Social Security number are requested), your choice of party (you may leave this blank or write “no party”), race or ethnic group (optional) and your signature.

Students can register at school since Illinois law allows a school principal or a person designated by the principal to register students from that school. Local governments also establish places to register, and you can register at a local office of the Secretary of State driver facility.

Local governments establish voting places, called polling places, usually at a school, city hall or other public building. Contact the county clerk’s office at 987-3050 to obtain the information, or if you need to obtain an absentee ballot. College students may register to vote in either the city where they go to school or in the locale where their permanent address is.

A person convicted of a felony, or otherwise under sentence in a correctional institution, loses the right to vote. The right to vote is restored upon completion of the sentence.

For further information about law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association-member lawyer in your area, or visit

Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association and is a joint project with the Illinois Press Association. Its purpose is to inform citizens of their legal rights and obligations. Consult your lawyer if you have questions about the application of the law in a particular case.

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